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I am in New York today delivering a Brainzooming branding strategy workshop on Engaging Your Internal Brand Team. The event is the Brand Strategy Conference. Our content addresses collaborative ways to strategically engage employees in creating and delivering the best brand experience.

Empire-State-Building2

The branding strategy workshop came about from talking to too many executives that think it’s okay to let employees in on branding changes at the same time (or even after) customers learn about them.

THAT is a horrific idea for delivering a great brand experience.

We will introduce a new Brainzooming Fake Book soon that includes the exercises we will cover in the branding strategy workshop.

Branding Strategy – Engaging an Internal Brand Team

Here are links to fourteen articles integrated within the workshop.

Identifying Opportunities for Employee Input on Branding Strategy

Collaborating with Employees to Enhance the Brand Experience

Supporting a High-Performing Internal Brand Team

Inviting Employees into Branding Strategy Conversations

Mike Brown

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Are you looking for new, more effective ways to engage your employees in shaping and successfully carrying out your brand strategy? You need to download this FREE Brainzooming eBook, published with the Global Strategic Management Institute. You’ll learn three effective strategies to engage employees as an internal brand team.

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In my corporate days, I was dispatched to work with competitive companies our corporation purchased. The objective was to help them become better strategic thinkers and marketers.

The ground rule was, however, I couldn’t tell them WHAT to do. Since all the companies competed with one another, each one needed to determine its own business strategies.

When I tell people this story, they chuckle. It seems ridiculous to help a company become better at strategic thinking and marketing without being allowed to tell them how to do it.

While this constraint may seem (and actually be) ridiculous, it shaped how the Brainzooming method developed.

Strategic Thinking Exercises – 3 Responses to New Ideas

Idea-bulb-grid

In planning how we would help these companies, we realized there were three possibilities whenever we asked people to answer a question inside our strategic thinking exercises:

  1. The answer could show their strategic thinking was in the right direction.
  2. The answer could suggest their strategic thinking wasn’t effective in this situation.
  3. The answer could be a complete surprise we hadn’t anticipated.

Each of the three options suggested a potential response from us:

  1. With on-target ideas, we’d cheer them on and encourage more like it.
  2. With off-target ideas, we would say, “That’s great,” and suggest other strategic thinking exercises to re-orient them toward a better direction.
  3. If the unexpected idea was on target, we’d consider it a pleasant surprise. If it was off-target, we’d suggest alternative strategic thinking exercises to try.

What this suggests for you is that when working with a team, you don’t necessarily have to be ready to respond by saying ideas and concepts are good or bad.

You can, however, vary your reaction based on whether you perceive an idea to be good or bad. And if it’s bad, use other strategic thinking exercises to gently bring the ideas back to something smarter and more productive.   Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Improve Strategic Results

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Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategic planning and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

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How can you “do the impossible with nothing”?

That would definitely take extreme creativity!

On Easter Sunday 2016, Mother Mary Angelica, the Foundress of the EWTN Network, the Catholic media organization, passed away at the age of 92. Mother Angelica, although she was essentially silenced by a stroke the last 15 years of her life, was known for her sharp wit, orthodox view of Catholicism, and undying faith that if she were pursuing God’s will, He would supply the knowledge, wherewithal, money, and talents she didn’t have when she started.

Mother-Angelica

Amid non-stop EWTN coverage of her death and reruns of her old TV programs, multiple remembrance shows featured people that knew her well in both a spiritual and business sense.

During one show, a guest shared a message on a piece of paper in an EWTN guest house:

“We, the unwilling, have been led by the unqualified to do the unimaginable with so little for so long, we’re now ready to do the impossible with nothing.”

When I posted this message on Facebook, people immediately discussed it in a political context. It had struck me as an entrepreneurial statement. As a long-time EWTN viewer and listener, however, I knew exactly what the message implied. You must pray, discern God’s will, and take the first step in faith before you know what’s going to happen next. That was clearly Mother Angelica’s formula for EVERYTHING related to the network she started in 1981 with $200 and a TV studio in a garage.

A New Add to Our Extreme Creativity Strategic Thinking Exercises

Thinking about the statement further and the audacity of trying to do “the impossible with nothing” suggested this idea was the ultimate in extreme creativity.

While I would guarantee that beginning with prayer is the BEST place to start, a new extreme creativity question is finding its way into future strategic thinking exercises:

“Where would you start if you had to do the impossible with nothing?”

Why are we adding this strategic thinking question?

Because when I applied the strategic thinking question to The Brainzooming Group, I immediately moved to ideas I had NEVER considered before:

  • Having Emma Alvarez Gibson introduce an all-Spanish version of Brainzooming content and training
  • Doing a crowdsourced “resource raising” to find the talents to help develop the full range of Brainzooming content in exchange for a percentage of future revenue and profits
  • Refusing to schedule meetings before 10 a.m. so I can spend more time in prayer after mass every morning
  • Posting all our content online so people can download it and create custom Brainzooming content that suits their specific needs
  • Solicit someone with incredible online capabilities to take us on as a pet project to demonstrate the upside of creating and distributing a lot of targeted content

Those were all new ideas – some demonstrating more extreme creativity than others.

Given the quickness and high concentration of thinking from applying it, we definitely have a new extreme creativity question for our strategic thinking exercises. – Mike Brown

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We (and by “we” I mean “I”) would like to believe we’re strong at strategic thinking in business. And an appreciation of strategic thinking from a business perspective SHOULD extend over into ALL the decisions we make.

Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.

With strategic thinking, it’s often so much easier to apply it to other organizations and people than to our own situation.

The-Thinker

Need a few examples to back that claim up?

Here you go.

The SMARTEST Thing I Could Do Would Be To . . .

  • Prioritize all the business development stuff I need to do, but I sit at the computer struggling to write a blog post for the next day.
  • Get on with writing a blog post for the next day if that’s what I’m going to insist on doing, but instead, I spend time chatting on Facebook Messenger.
  • Work on one thing at a time and finish it, yet my desk is strewn with 15 things that need attention by the end of the day.
  • Stop snacking, but I’m too busy walking to the kitchen to get cheese crackers as a way of getting exercise.
  • Appreciate the people that have reached out wondering why I seem so frazzled lately, but all the while I’m concerned about what I’m doing that’s making it so obvious how frazzled I’ve been lately.
  • Turn off the computer to clear the memory out and let it take a rest, but I refuse to shut it down and have to re-open all those Windows Explorer searches.
  • Go to sleep instead of staying up past midnight once again, KNOWING I have to get up by 4:30 to complete my weekly newsletter writing deadline.

See what I mean.

It’s easy, when it comes to strategic thinking, to KNOW better.

It’s not nearly as easy (it seems) to DO the better thing you know you should do.

Maybe that’s all part of being human.  – Mike Brown

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Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Contact us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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In its  “Inside the Executive Suite” newsletter, Armada Corporate Intelligence featured a recap and expansion on a Wall Street Journal article called “Win Over a Remote Boss.”  The prevalence of remote collaboration (and the new strategic thinking and other challenges those situations can create) prompted sharing the “Inside the Executive Suite” story here in an edited format.

Strategic Thinking – 4 Strategies for Successful Remote Collaboration

AEIB-Graphic

I Can’t See You! What Do You Think?

Roughly forty percent of US workers work from home or in other virtual work settings. Include individuals reporting to an office but working directly with bosses and/or employees in other locations, and the prevalence of distance working relationships grows.

We liken the advice to employ different communication styles in remote work settings to how actors vary gestures and speaking approaches based on how readily an audience can see their faces. TV and movies allow for more subtle gestures because facial cues are readily visible to the audience. Stage actors (who are further away from the audience) have to use bigger gestures to convey the same messages with comparable impact. The acting style must vary relative to the level of connection.

A recent Wall Street Journal article shared advice for individuals working remotely as part of a team.

Similarly in remote work settings, you have to adapt interaction styles to fit the challenges of reduced interaction when people can’t see each other.

4 Strategies for Clarifying and Modifying How You Interact

Based on ideas from the Wall Street Journal article and our remote working experiences, consider these strategies for successful remote collaboration. Instead of ideas tied to particular apps, we’ll concentrate on behaviors adaptable to the tools available to your work team.

Orange-Cupts-String

Create clear understanding about communication and decision making styles

It’s imperative to clarify communication preferences and decision styles irrespective of whether you are the boss or an employee. Not every boss, however, can readily articulate personal communication and decision preferences. We suggest answering these strategic thinking questions to improve clarity:

  • Do you like learning the main point immediately (with details to follow) when someone delivers a recommendation? Alternatively, do you prefer a run-through making the case for a recommendation before someone shares the big idea?
  • Can you identify typical situations where team members can make decisions on their own, either with or without the boss’ input? What types of decisions can the boss alone make? Are there any situational factors impacting these guidelines?
  • Do you comfortably make quick decisions, or do you mull over the possibilities prior to deciding? Does this tendency apply to all decisions or just certain ones?
  • Relative to approval situations, are there times when specific approval (i.e., receiving a Yes or No) isn’t required? In these cases, will it work to simply have a “reply by or we will move ahead” date to reduce back-and-forth communication and accelerate the review process?

The answers lead to more independent work processes and efficient communication. Try converting the answers into general guidelines or a decision tree everyone can use.

Use the right communication channel for the situation

While it is convenient to use email as a predominant form of communication, it isn’t ideal in every situation. Consider what communication channel makes it easiest for the receiver to consume, process, and act on your inbound communication.

The WSJ article recommends email for delivering project status updates and other information plus bouncing ideas off of someone else. Instant messages or texts typically generate greater attention for time-sensitive issues.

While over-communicating is important in remote work settings, you don’t want to overdo it inadvertently. Test yourself by considering whether you would seem to be a nuisance if you showed up as often at someone’s office door as you are showing up in his or her email inbox/text message list/voice mail box?

Schedule brief, informal updates with high regularity

It’s easy to be lazy and use cc and bcc as your primary avenues to communicate updates to others. What is easier for a sender than listing multiple names on an email and expecting that including someone on the email serves as an update?

Unless you have an app signaling when a recipient opens an email, however, you have no idea when or how a recipient processes the information. Additionally, copying people on emails in place of targeted updates places all the work on the recipient to sift through nested email strings to understand where things are at currently.

It’s far better for a team member to create a legitimate update listing high priority initiatives, along with current activities, potential issues, and likely next steps. Consolidating multiple “cc and update” emails into one communication (with hyperlinks to more detailed information) saves time and doesn’t waste the attention of a boss already inundated with “cc and update” emails daily.

Prioritize and escalate issues in smart ways

Despite creating guidelines for expected situations, there will be unplanned times requiring alternative methods of prioritization and escalation approaches. Here are suggestions in these cases:

  • Prioritize tasks that others need to get started addressing. Better to get someone else working sooner than later so you can both be active on high priority items.
  • When it comes to deciding on responding to communications, jump on quick email and phone response to bosses and co-workers that don’t have visibility to what you are doing. Suggest that the team put a phrase such as “Immediate Attention” into priority emails to help with this.
  • Anticipate an escalation path if a co-worker has not responded in a timely fashion, leaving you hanging. Do you have an okay to reach out at unusual times to keep things moving? Ask about this upfront to minimize potential anxiety if there’s a situation where you need to demand attention right away.

When in doubt?

Whenever a remote working situation leaves you questioning how best to communicate, interact, or keep a project moving ahead, a fantastic strategic thinking question suggested by the WSJ article is to ask: What path will best grow and maintain trust in this working relationship? The answer will generally be a smart way to go.  – Armada Corporate Intelligence

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your brand’s innovation strategy and implementation success.

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It’s been odd times recently.

Maybe it’s a scattered focus. Maybe it’s exciting possibilities that failed to pan out as hoped. Maybe it’s other unplanned possibilities that HAVE materialized that seem quite random.

Creative Thinking Skills – Some Working, Some Not

What-Do-With-Idea

Amid the odd times, it’s no surprise my creative thinking skills have varied widely the past few months. When my creative thinking skills HAVE been stronger, here’s what has been working:

  1. When I think about needing to get all the financial records updated to be ready to prepare taxes, I can suddenly write like crazy as a diversion.
  2. Flying on a plane has worked to boost my writing, but not as predictably as it has in the past.
  3. I sat at a sports bar picking up dinner for my wife and was able to write nearly all of the next day’s blog post while waiting for her hamburger to arrive from the kitchen.
  4. Getting a few hours of sleep and starting fresh in the morning (even if it’s REALLY EARLY) has been creatively productive.
  5. Waiting in a particular conference room for a particular client that averages running thirty minutes late always seems to lead to quiet times with great creative output.
  6. Sitting in church after mass and praying for help led to answers in several situations where answers eluded me for months.
  7. Buying new notebooks to kick off business trips (and using a Sharpie marker to jot down ideas).
  8. Buying a new giant pad of paper to map out Brainzooming workshops.
  9. I’ve had selective success looking back to previous creative efforts and using them as patterns for new work.
  10. Attempting to video a blog post before writing it.
  11. Deciding that what I have completed is good enough and trimming away the extra parts I’ve started but remain difficult to finish.
  12. Sitting in my MIL’s various hospital rooms and finding mental space to write.

I-am-creative

It’s also fair to share what creative thinking skills HAVEN’T been working lately:

  1. Trying to write on the iPad. Lots of starts of things, but very few that move to completion.
  2. Going back to my Word file of blog starter ideas is hit and miss right now.
  3. Whenever I’m spending too much time away from groups of people, I can feel my creative thinking skills leave to find a more exciting place to hang out.
  4. Intense cardio exercise usually clears the creative cob webs, but that’s been sputtering.
  5. Having to make long car trips is USUALLY a miss, with very few creative hits. That’s unchanged so far this year.
  6. Sundays, at one point in my life, were big creative times, as were Friday night into Saturday. None of that’s happening anymore, for multiple reasons, I suspect.

As much as anything, I wanted to confirm that not all of your creative thinking skills, even ones that have worked well before, are going to work all the time.

It happens to ALL of us, I suspect.

That’s when you definitely want to have a strong bunch of new ways to get your creativity going again! – Mike Brown

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ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Contact us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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We are big fans of strategy statements incorporating simple language an organization uses to talk about its daily business activities. Strategy statements should not be filled with complex jargon that most people cannot understand or with generic language that could apply to ANY business.

Think about that for a minute.

If you develop strategy statements featuring the ultimate in complex yet generic MBA-caliber language, they will apply to any business even though your own people probably will not be able to understand it well enough to carry out the strategy.

THAT’S why we advocate a very different approach for our clients.

Group-Collaboration

5 Advantages of Strategy Statements with Simple Language

When you have simple strategy statements that sound like your organization communicates, we’ve seen and experienced multiple advantages:

  1. People throughout the organization can read them and understand what’s important
  2. The strategies are more credible and believable
  3. Your team members have a clear sense of how they contribute to implementing the strategy
  4. It will be easier for more employees to develop ideas and suggestions to help the strategy take hold
  5. It will be evident what the end result of the strategy should be

It’s worth a few minutes (if you haven’t done it recently) to crack open your strategic plan and read your strategy statements. If you weren’t involved in putting the strategic plan together, would YOU be able to understand the strategy statements? And do they sound like your organization?

If not, you can do better.

And we’d love to be the ones to help craft your strategy into actionable statements and language your employees are in a strong position to understand, embrace, and turn into results. Contact us to talk about how we can make that happen!  – Mike Brown

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DInternal-Brand-Strategy-eBoownload Your Free Internal Branding Strategy eBook!

Are you looking for new, more effective ways to engage your employees in shaping and successfully carrying out your brand strategy? You need to download this FREE Brainzooming eBook, published with the Global Strategic Management Institute. You’ll learn three effective strategies to engage employees as an internal brand team.

Download Your FREE eBook! 3 Actionable Strategies for Engaging Your Internal Brand Team

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